Reflections from 2010 AHAA: The Pitbull intracultural strategy for ethnic agencies

08 Oct 2010|spalacios

The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) had its 11th annual conference this week. Its theme was “Natural Selection,” which is meant to emphasize how Hispanic agencies need to evolve. Pitbull may have showed how.

Yesterday in Miami, the mega-selling Latin rapper Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) of Calle Ocho fame was interviewed by Sony Latin Music president Ruben Leyva. In this highly entertaining interview, Leyva mentioned how Pitbull was actually signed to two divisions of Sony – one in Miami, where Pitbull would produce Spanish language music for a U.S. Hispanic and global audience, and one in New York, where he would produce English language music interspersed with some Spanish for ‘authenticity.’ By signing with both, Pitbull not only made more money at the onset of the deal, but now has the ability to leverage one division against the other in terms of what he releases, when, how and for whom. For example, by adding a certain degree of Spanish to an album or a single, he can influence which division releases it.

The Sony corporate approach to the Pitbull arrangement roughly parallels the way that the marketing paradigm is set up in the U.S.: “General Market” marketing infrastructure vs. “Ethnic or Multicultural” infrastructure. What did Pitbull do that ethnic agencies, including AHAA’s Hispanic agency members, can employ to create their own competitive advantage?

Expand your audience and learn to play the system against itself
Ethnic agencies are currently on the defensive, feeling and fearing the rise of “General Market” agencies that are increasingly co-opting ethnic marketing assignments. AHAA agencies should go on the offensive, leveraging their cultural knowledge to serve Hispanics and beyond. Should Pitbull worry about Eminem learning some Spanish and adding a Bachata riff in some of his songs? It’s not a strategy that will work. The authenticity lies with the Hispanic ethnic value proposition being relevant beyond its ethnic audience, not the other way around.

Expand your audience: I have seen many examples of ethnic agencies putting together winning strategies that appeal beyond segment. Burrell, one of the best known African American agencies (to take this out of an exclusively Hispanic context for a minute, because the issue is the same), recently sourced an African American dentist spokeswoman for Crest. This spokeswoman tested better than any other “general market” dentist with all audiences and eventually became the Crest spokeswoman for everyone. Similar stories of Queen Latifah moving from ethnic-specific Covergirl to just Covergirl, or how Nature Valley appropriated the “Latino” positioning focused on naturalism are other examples. The marketers in these examples, Proctor and Gamble and General Mills, received marketing strategies from their ethnic agencies that provided both deep ethnic relevance and broad reach appeal. But there are two key differences between these examples and Pitbull: intentionality and playing the system, or in other terms — money.

Playing the system against itself – intentionality and money: Pitbull knows that he has a deep understanding of Latino consumers, and the ability to leverage his Latino identity more broadly. Knowing this, he intentionally effectively sold himself twice to Sony. As a result he got paid twice, and commands greater influence. In the examples above, it is my understanding that the ethnic agencies got paid once, and probably a lot less than the “general market” agencies that eventually ran with the ethnic lead ideas. If ethnic agencies find spokespeople and create positionings and campaigns that appeal deeply to ethnic audiences and broadly to a mixed ethnic group, they should also get paid for both.

Everyone pretty much agrees the U.S. is demographically and attitudinally coming to reflect and value ethnic identity more. Why don’t ethnic-focused agencies expand their intentionality and promise campaigns that are deeply ethnically relevant (their current value proposition) and, in certain cases, will have a “double cross over effect” of reaching intracultural audiences? The real opportunity here is for ethnic agencies to figure out how to take Pitbull’s example and better monetize their cultural advantage. Is there a way to sell twice?

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